Town officials eye site for new library in Shutesbury

  • The M.N. Spear Memorial Library in Shutesbury, built in 1902, is a tidy 768 square feet. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Monday, November 29, 2021

SHUTESBURY — A new library will be constructed on a vacant Leverett Road site across from the Highway Department grounds, if the town moves forward with replacing the cramped and aging M.N. Spear Memorial Library.

A decision by the Select Board this month to use the 22-acre town-owned land at 66 Leverett Road, also known as Lot O-32, comes in advance of library officials submitting a grant proposal to the state’s Small Library Pilot Project program by a Dec. 3 deadline.

Should Shutesbury be accepted, the grant would be for up to $3 million and would cover about two-thirds of the cost of constructing a new library on the property that previously had a home and garage, and, in an earlier era, was cleared to improve sightlines for a military antenna once located there.

In anticipation of being part of the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners program for rural communities, Library Director Mary Anne Antonellis said she and trustees recently completed an 85-page Library Building Program. That program will be used as a set of instructions for an architect who will design the library.

The program outlines the book, video and audio collection at the existing 768-square-foot library, housed in a 1902 building, and the community’s needs — such as the concept of being a “Library of Things,” or a resource for items that might include tools, toys, camping kits, and dishware and flatware.

Town Meeting in June authorized approval of the submission. The process is playing out nearly a decade after Shutesbury was last prepared to build a new library, but voters rejected a $3.5 million borrowing authorization in a Proposition 2½ debt-exclusion vote.

To make sure funding continues, the Friends of the Library group is doing outreach before Giving Tuesday on Nov. 30, where the hope is to meet a $5,000 matching gift from an anonymous donor by receiving an equal amount in donations on or before that day.

Town Meeting has also saved $252,700 for a library project that can be combined with $270,710 library supporters have already raised in private donations and other ways, such as through returnable bottles and cans and a clothing drive.

Antonellis said trustees, the friends group and others have been doing extensive work in the community get buy-in.

“We have heard from many people that they really want a new library with space for larger collections and programs and places to informally gather and to sit and read,” Antonellis said. “We have also heard that some people are concerned about the potential tax impact of a project like this.”

The existing small staff is the biggest part of the library’s operating budget. The staff includes Antonellis as full-time director, an 11-hour per week library assistant, and, before COVID, a weekend circulation clerk.